Saturday, December 20, 2008

Achtung, Baby


Laugh if you must, but U2 is, was, and always shall be one of my favorite bands, so this news is a nice early Christmas present. So are the rumors that the album might move away from the earnest, stripped-down "classic rock" stylings of the last two records back to the more lyrically ambiguous and sonically interesting work U2 did in the 90s (the record was produced by fifth Beatle Brian Eno and longtime U2 collaborator Daniel Lanois, the gentlemen behind many of their best records). After all, a return to those goofy "Fly" goggles Bono used to wear can only be a good thing.

More from The Edge here.

He's Good Enough, He's Smart Enough...


...And gosh darnit, Minnesotans seem to like him!

Bill O'Reilly's head exploding in 3...2...1...

We'll see how this all plays out, but I suspect that somewhere, Paul Wellstone is smiling.

Cover Me #7: The Ice Storm

Saturday Music Flashback: Porkpie Hat

Friday, December 19, 2008

Deep Throat, R.I.P.



W. Mark Felt, the real-life "Deep Throat" so beautifully immortalized by Hal Holbrook in All The President's Men, died yesterday at the age of 95.

Friday Music Flashback: Corner Pocket

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Random Afternoon Thought


Inspired by the SIrius Radio playing at the Feve:

You know, I really haven't listened to enough Van Halen lately.

Tuesday Music Flashback: Joy Spring

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cover Me #5: Last-Minute Shopping

Santa Claws



Following up on the Gambit post from a week or two ago, the X-Men Origins: Wolverine trailer was released this weekend. It's intriguing-- less plot-driven and more the classic action film than some of the other recent Marvel adaptations, perhaps, but with a top-notch cast and (if this trailer's any indication) a tone that echoes those great government conspiracy films of the mid-70s (the period, in fact, during which the Wolverine character made his comics debut). And Hugh Jackman looks and feels much more like Len Wein and Chris Claremont's classic character here than he did in any of the X-Men films.

(h/t to Oliver Willis' site for the vid).

Great Moments in Fox News Sports Reporting

From their website, a story announcing Tim Tebow as the winner of the Heisman-- heck of a job, Rupert!:



They "report," you find your way back to reality.

(h/t to Deadspin for the graphic).

Monday Music Flashback: Floating On The Silence

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cover Me #4: Going Underground



I bought Avengers #12 (published in 1964, with a cover date of January 1965) in 1985, when I was twelve, and I think it cost me two or three dollars in fine condition. I don't know what it would be worth today, but its value to me at the time was far more than monetary-- it was one of the first "Silver Age" comics I bought that was an original (not a reprint, like the Spider-Man stories then being republished in Marvel Tales). The art by Don Heck and Dick Ayers time-traveled me to another place (a feeling enhanced by the yellowing paper it was printed on), and Stan Lee's script skillfully wove together the adventurous (a confrontation with the Mole Man and his underground army, facing off against my favorite Avengers line-up), the character-driven melodramatic (Thor's egocentric refusal to believe there's a threat that's based on information from ants, Giant-Man's ups-and-downs with his girlfriend the Wasp, Iron Man and Captain America's valiant attempts to hold the team together) and the tongue-in-cheek (Iron Man gets to the Avengers meeting using-- I kid you not-- the roller skates in his armor boots).

But more than the story or the art, it was the pages around the story that truly excited me-- the old-style letters column, the ads for "23 Lessons in Hypnotic Feats" (the copy read, "Give Me Just One Evening and I'll Teach You To Hypnotize Easily!"), and especially the Marvel in-house ads, which displayed covers for other titles being published that month (Strange Tales# 129, Tales of Suspense #62--with Cap and Iron Man!--Fantastic Four #35, whose cover I posted just the other day). I spent more time staring at those covers than I did reading the story, I think, and even now glancing at them brings back both the childhood memories of the 80s and the oddly sensual nostalgia they evoked for me back then. It was a nostalgia for a time I did not live through, but which seemed so interesting, and was so well captured by those Marvel time capsules. Andre Bazin wrote of cinema as being a "death mask," preserving like an Egyptian tomb the styles and more of an earlier day. Because they took place in the "real world" of New York, and because they were so willing to reference the pop culture of the day, those Marvel covers function that way for me-- if they aren't an accurate representation of 1964, they at least call up 1964 as it should have been, as its artists chose to capture it.

Which brings us back to the cover of Avengers #12. The book's interior art was done by Heck, but the cover was penciled by Jack Kirby, who did many of Marvel's covers in the early 60s. The first thing I always notice is Giant-Man's oversized pointer finger, nicely balanced by Cap's oversized hand on the right-- they call attention to the cartoonishness of the image, and its stylized vision of reality, even as the almost 3-D effect of their resizing draws the viewer in viscerally. Is Giant-Man pointing to the world outside the space of the comic, that world that the stories work so hard to weave into their melodrama, even if both the fantastical nature of the stories and the physical limitations of the page itself mean that it will always be a simulacra of that world, not its "reality"? (Giant-Man's finger by necessity can never quite break its spatial plane.) The cover captures an action shot from the scene, but also feels like a snapshot of the characters posing for the reader-- they look out "at the camera," as it were, and even the Mole Man and his minions in the background look like they're starting at the viewer. We're intruders on this scene, and even as the cast catches sight of us, Thor's mighty hammer dynamically smashes down on the rock, breaking the pose-- smashing the lingering nostalgia--and returning us to the action inside.

Mental Health Break: I Wanna Rawk



If your life is anything like mine, it's probably a swirl of work, holiday planning and surviving the snow. So why not take a break from the stress by browsing this page, which displays some of the "worst album covers" of all time? It's fun, it's frightening, and it's a reminder that, no matter how hectic things might feel, at least you aren't a member of the Scorpions.

Saturday Music Flashback: But Why Wonder Why

Friday, December 12, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

DayQuil/NyQuil Suffering


Hey, True Believers, there's just so much to blog about-- recent films I've seen, comics I'm reading, TV show round-ups, odd football notes, the hilarious prospect of Ohio's own Ken Blackwell running for RNC Chair (go, Ken, go!), and the brilliance of the latest Beyonce single-- but your loyal correspondent is currently buried in the snowglobe of an Oberlin December, and suffering from massive achy stuffiness.

So all of the above will have to wait until at least tomorrow, but in the meantime I'll leave you with this excellent piece from comics/pop culture blogger Kevin Church on the grimness of the contemporary super-hero comic. I stumbled on it through Google, and it says a lot about how little things have changed that I didn't realize it was an older piece until I got to the end (yes, I know there's a date at the top, but the DayQuil, dammit, the DayQuil!). I don't read a ton of DC comics, but in the age of The Dark Knight, and the ongoing crossover monstrosity (hi, Secret Invasion!), Church's larger points about hipster nihilism replacing that sense of wonder that superheroes should provide feels as relevant as ever.

Saturday Music Flashback: Tryin' To Get Over

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gambit!

By the time Gambit was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #266, I had long since stopped reading comics, and when I started again at the end of the '90s, the overwrought mutant titles generally weren't on my pull list (with a couple of exceptions).

So I had no strong reaction to the news that the character would be making an appearance in the upcoming Wolverine movie. My lovely companion, however, who is Cajun, understandably finds the ability to throw cards an ultra-lame superpower, is further annoyed by the X-writers' tendency to write Gambit's accent in the most stereotypical of ways, and generally finds the character fairly idiotic. But we are big fans of Friday Night Lights, and especially dig Riggins, the soulful bad boy so winningly embodied by Taylor Kitsch. So when the news came that Kitsch would be playing the Ragin' Mutant Cajun in the new film, we took a wait-and-see attitude.

Via the excellent Comic By Comic, I found out that new pictures of Kistch-as-Gambit had been released.

Here's the comic book Gambit:



And here's Kitsch in the film:



Hmm...Not bad. Perhaps more Rounders than X-Men, but that's not a bad thing (and it's certainly a big improvement on the Mullet Boy in the illustration). If Kitsch can find a way to channel the bruised aggression he uses so effectively on FNL into the new role, and he has good chemistry with co-stars Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber (great cast, by the way), then X-Men Origins: Wolverine might be interesting, indeed.

More from Kitsch on the role here.

Face The Facebook


Surreal moment of the day:

I was walking to Mudd (Oberlin College's main library) this evening to return some DVDs. As I headed up the ramp, I overheard one of my students, a few yards further up, talking to some friends:

"I'm friends with Brian Doan on Facebook!"

I paused, wondering if the cold, the distance and my massive ego caused me to mishear her. But then she said it again.

"I'm friends with Brian Doan on Facebook!"

"Cool!," said her friend (obviously someone with good taste).

I was properly bundled in winter headgear, which allowed me to slip by unnoticed, but I didn't know quite what to make of it. I have been on Facebook for a little over a year, and have had several students "friend" me (for a while, I was encouraging them to do so, as a way of matching names to faces at the beginning of class. Of course, not everyone uses pictures of themselves-- or if they do, the pictures are transformed by light, shade, or the funhouse mirror distortion that comes from shooting your face through the bottom of a beer glass-- so the idea didn't really work out as I'd intended). It's fun, and a good way to keep in contact during and after the run of the course.

But I've never really heard them talking about me, or my Facebook page, or the simple act of "friending" me. I felt a little like Lucy in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when she discovers the spell that lets her listen in on her friends' secret thoughts about her. In that book, Lucy finds she doesn't want to know all the negative things they are thinking behind her back, a reason I tend not to go to RateYourProfessor and similar sites: if it's negative, it will be depressing, if it's positive it will be equally paralyzing, and either way it seems more like a space for students to vent than for us to read the venting.

I don't think this student was speaking badly of me-- I know who she is, and have a good relationship with her. But it is kind of an out-of-body moment when you're confronted with that reality that you exist as a person/persona for your students outside of the class and related course activities (like meetings or screenings or whatever). I know I did the same thing with my professors, talking with my friends about those I both liked and disliked as an undergrad. It's just an odd, funny, flattering, and slightly bizarre experience when it happens to you.

However, if those pictures of me, Angelina, and Agent Sellassie turn up online, I will start to feel paranoid...

Thursday Music Flashback: I Patched Up Your Broken Wings

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Weis Privilege


Well, looks like USC (and Navy, and Boston College, and Syracuse, and...) will have Charlie Weis to to kick around next year.

Here are the money quotes:

The decision gives Weis another shot at trying to return Notre Dame to prominence after the team lost 15 games the past two seasons, the most by Notre Dame in a two-year span.

The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator has a record of 28-21 in four years, a .571 winning percentage. That's slightly worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie.


And later:

In Weis' four seasons, only eight of Notre Dame's 28 victories came against teams that finished the season with a winning record. The Irish have recently gone 1-16 against teams that finished with a winning record.

The wins against quality teams have been scarce. Notre Dame beat No. 3 Michigan in Weis' second game as coach, but the Wolverines finished 7-5 that season. His only victory against a team that finished a season ranked in the Top 25 was a 41-17 win over a Penn State squad that finished 2006 ranked No. 24.

His finest moment as Irish coach came midway through his first season, when the Irish were 12-point underdogs to top-ranked USC. He worked Notre Dame fans into a frenzy that week and held the weekly pep rally outside at Notre Dame Stadium and 45,000 people attended. The Trojans narrowly won when Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinart into the end zone with 3 seconds left.


His "finest moment" is a close LOSS? That tells you everything you need to know, doesn't it? "We almost won! We almost won!" Heck of a job, Charlie!

So, Ty Willingham gets three years with a better winning percentage, while a coach recently described in one article as having "built zero relationships at the school...It has been all about him and his ego" gets five? The excellent football writer Stewart Mandel suggests it's about ND lowering their expectations and giving a coach more time to run a program. Fine, but I do wish those chances weren't so selectively applied. In Notre Dame's weird matrix of money, power, race, recruiting and alumni relations, screwing over the coach who was (in the words of the AD when he fired Willingham) a credit to the school "every day but Saturday," while keeping the guy who doesn't seem like a credit any day of the week, doesn't do wonders for the program's image.

Wednesday Music Flashback: When The Road Unwinds

Monday, December 1, 2008

Batty



I remember being deeply puzzled the first time I saw the 1966 Batman movie. I must have been about eight or nine when it showed up on TV, advertised on one of our local syndicated stations as a big event. Knowing Bats only from the comics, I didn't quite know what to do with the Adam West epic that unfurled before my eyes-- its camp humor went right over my head. My strongest memory was of waiting-- waiting for something to happen, waiting for the plot to kick in, waiting for any sort of suspense to build. It was like encountering Waiting for Godot at a very young age, except here Vladimir and Estragon show up in capes and cowls.

I don't know that it would be right to refer to this Batman as "good," per se, but in a moment when the darker Nolan version seems suffocatingly omnipresent (I liked the most recent film, but also feel slightly smothered by it all these months later), there's something refreshing about returning to the arch, tongue-in-cheek images above. When nihilism becomes the new conventional wisdom, camp parody rediscovers its subversive edge, and can allow us to access the bright primary colors and shoddy rear projections in a renewed fashion. By layering The Dark Knight's preview dialogue on top, the mash-up above also calls attention to just how bizarre and surreal those original images were-- cut out and reframed, they once again become marvelous.

Monday Music Flashback: Deconstruct Me And Consume Me